Stories of Energy Descent Part 1

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It’s 2030 and Worthing has changed. Without cheap oil or other fossil fuels, we’ve had to find new ways of doing things. From how we heat our homes, to how we get around, or how we feed ourselves, Worthing in 2030 is very different to Worthing in 2011. In fact, Worthing is a thriving, vibrant community, but how have things changed? What will we do? What will we be nostalgic for?

AT the end of 2011, Transition Town Worthing ran a creative writing competition which asked budding local writers to think about what Worthing might be like in 2030. And, yes, how on Earth could Worthing turn into a thriving and vibrant community (I thought that might prove a tall order . . . )

Anyway, here is one of the final entries. See what you think.

‘From The Sea, Plenty’ by Ben Ellis 

Detective Gray: Beginning interview with Mr Joseph Mannings. The time is 11.15am on Saturday 21st September 2030. Present are myself, Detective Gray, and Sergeant Hickman. Mr Mannings has forfeited his right to legal representation. Mr Mannings, are you aware that you have access to legal aid?

Mannings: Yeah, I’m alright. Gray: OK, can you confirm you are Joseph Mannings of 34 Mordinges Drive?

Mannings: Yes, that’s correct.

Gray: And you’re a licensed taxi driver for ‘Sunlight Cabs’?

Mannings: Yep, for over 15 years. Now, if this is about the dodgy batteries I used to pass off at the solar battery stations, I’ve already paid that fine…

Gray: No, this is nothing to do with that. Anything else you want to confess before I put the first question to you?

Mannings: Undeclared earnings?

Gray: For the benefit of the tape, I’m showing Mr Mannings Exhibit A1, a photo of two gentlemen. Do you recognise either of these two men, Joe?

Mannings: No.

Gray: At least look at the photo Joe! Let me remind you, you’re not under caution, you have not been charged and you’re not a suspect. We need your help Joe, it could be vitally important for the whole town.

Mannings: No, they don’t ring a bell, what more can I tell you?

Gray: I’m showing Mr Mannings exhibit A2, this is a CCTV still of the same two gentlemen walking out of the Maglev terminal at Worthing Station yesterday evening at 6.23pm, heading towards the taxi rank.

Mannings: OK, OK, now I’ve got them pegged. That one bloke with the orange suitcase, I remember now. What bloke walks around with a bright orange suitcase, you know what I mean?

Gray: Slowly, Joe, talk us through the journey with them.

Mannings: Well, I tried to help him put the suitcase in the boot but he insisted on doing it himself, whatever, I ain’t going to make a point of lifting a heavy case. He doesn’t say anything though, it’s all the other guy. Both of them look Middle Eastern but the guy doing the talking sounds like a Brummie and he translates everything to the other guy. I’m no language expert but I’m guessing it’s Arabic.

Gray: Where did they want to go?

Mannings: The seafront, which is a little strange because visitors usually want to go straight to their hotel. Anyway, the traffic’s a nightmare because of the World Kite Surfing Championships this weekend and some kids decided to kite-skateboard through town causing mayhem. The foreign bloke, the Arab, is examining the inside of the car, leaning forward trying to see how I’m driving it. I ask the Brum, ‘What’s he looking for?’, he says it’s the first time he’s been in an electro car, they still have petrol ones where he’s from. There’s more chatter and then the Brum says the other guy wants to see me change a battery at a solar station. So we go; I point out the big solar panelled roof, remove the battery and swap it for a fully charged one, pay and then off we go again. I take them to Worthing Marina, park up and they offer me more money for a little tour and a few questions.

Gray: What did they want to see and what did they ask?

Mannings: They were interested in the Worthing Wind & Wave Turbine Array out in the bay. I told them there were tours to the array from the marina and I could get cheap tickets from my mate Bazza for a private tour so I gave them his number. Bazza uses his staff discount, it’s nothing dodgy.

Gray: And then what?

Mannings: The Arab gets his phone out and takes photos whilst the Brummie asks about stats and all that malarkey. I’ve got no idea about the specifics, all I know is that Worthing is selfsufficient. The Brummie translates a question, something like, is Worthing the only town like this? I said not for long because foreigners are here all the time seeing how things are done. The Arab ain’t happy and wants to leave.

Gray: Where do you go?

Mannings: They’ve got rooms booked at ‘The New Beach Hotel’. The Arab babbles away on his phone all the way there. Obviously I don’t know what about but he weren’t happy, I can tell you that.

Hickman: Why was your in-car CCTV switched off?

Mannings: I wondered when you were going to pipe up. Busted innit. The taxi company ain’t paying to fix it and I can’t afford nothing until after the New Year.

Gray: Sergeant Hickman is from the Anti-Terrorism Squad. You got any reason to believe these men were engaged in any reconnaissance?

Mannings: Casing the joint? They took photos but then visitors do that all the time. Why would they want to blow up anything round here? They got a severe dislike of Lawn Bowls or something?

Hickman: Like you said, this town is fully energy self-sufficient which has got the Chinese, the Indians and others interested which is upsetting the apple cart. What was in the suitcase?

Mannings: I’m an honest cabbie officer plus it had a bloody great lock on it.

Gray: *** SOUND OF DOOR OPENING *** For the benefit of the tape PC Bragg has just entered the interview room.

Bragg: Sir, they’re not at ‘The New Beach Hotel’, they left early this morning.

Hickman: Damn! Gray, get everyone on this we need to know what’s in that case.

Bragg: Also, a body was found at the marina today. He’s been formally identified as Barry Jacobs.

Mannings: That’s Bazza!

Hickman: It’s kicking off! *** CLASSIFIED ***

Bragg: One other thing, sir, maybe connected. An hotel have phoned in a complaint about a kite surfing team leaving without paying and get this, they left an overturned barrel of oil in the room, it’s made a right mess.

Hickman: They’re going to head for the array!

Gray: Interview terminated at 11:34am.


Can You Imagine Worthing in 2030?

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Creating an EDAP is all about writing a new story for the community.

Transition in Action, the Totnes EDAP, has a section called ‘Why we need stories’, and it is all too easy to overlook the power of storytelling as a way of shifting perceptions. The crucial aspect with stories is that they fire the imagination like nothing else. Both writing and reading (and listening to) a good story can create some vivid images and visions of a place, however mundane or fantastic.

As has been discussed in various Transition books, stories shape our ideas and beliefs. We may feel that this is a little far-fetched, but take a look at the work of eco-psychologist, Joanna Macy. I first encountered her ideas in May 2009 in Brighton during Training for Transition. One idea that was explored was the Assumptions of the Industrial Growth Society. In other words, what are we compelled to believe on a daily basis about civilisation based on images, advertising, the news, the media and everyday conversations. The stories we tell ourselves revolve around ‘economic growth’, ‘growth is good’; ‘survival of the fittest’; and ‘business as usual’ as a few examples.

As these ‘stories’ show themselves to be well past their sell-by dates, they are still up there and accepted as ‘how it is’. Writing a new story for the community means using some creative ideas rather than using the same old ones, endlessly recycled and dusted-off.

Where better to start writing a new story for the community than inviting people to put pen to paper and come up with a vision of a positive future, beyond fossil fuel dependency, and based on our town as it could be in twenty years time? So, a creative writing competition asking for short stories, poems, spoof news articles and advertisements. How about an agony aunt column as it could be in 2035 when although the town’s population has generally come to terms with energy descent and embraced it, a few die-hard oil addicts find ways to indulge their habits, much to the despair of their spouses?

TTW’s Story Writing Competition is running until 21st October 2011